The post contains spoilers
One must give it to Tamil cinema for spinning stories with subjects that are brilliantly novel. Bollywood, despite its enormously wide reach across continents, is seldom as bold as Tamil films. Over the years, I have seen themes as varied as camera phobia (engulfing an entire village!), cockfight, the poverty of Kanchipuram silk weavers, the travails of a tusker and what have you. The latest zeroes in on test-tube conception with Pia Bajpayee and Tovino Thomas (making his rather unsteady debut in the Tamil language) in Abhiyum Anuvum. Helmed by cinematographer-turned-director B R Vijayalakshmi ( daughter of B R Panthulu, whose oeuvre includes Veerapandiya Kattaboman and Karnan ), she has made a bold foray into a topic still not comfortably discussed in drawing rooms.
But – as has been the persistent bane of Tamil movies -- Abhiyum Anuvum has been shoddily written by Udhayabanu Maheswaran and pelts us with glitches. What a pity that a subject as interesting and as important as test-tube fertilisation woven into a simple romance has had to slip and slide.
Anu (played with captivating conviction by Bajpayee) lives with her mother, Meena (Rohini), in Mettupalayam on the foothills of the Blue Mountains or Nilgiris, and they are into agri-business. And like today's crop of youngsters, Anu is addicted to Facebook and other forms of digital diversions. In one of her acts of bravado (overdone to the hilt), she has a tryst with a tusker as she carts an about-to-litter sheep in an ambulance to a hospital. When the elephant stands menacingly on the road blocking the vehicle's path, Anu cajoles the animal to move away by tempting it with a bunch of bananas. If only tuskers were so tame!
Chennai techie Abhi (Thomas) watches the drama on Facebook, flips for the brave heart and travels to her town, and in what appears like hurricane hurry, the two decide to marry in a temple. Despite no trace of opposition, neither the boy's parents nor Meena are kept in the loop! Extremely unconvincing this is, as are two other plot deviations. Poor Manobala is reduced to a caricature as Abhi's boss (a role the actor has done in certainly one more movie), and cops are shown as bumbling fools. Really? Undoubtedly a case of lazy writing.
However, Vijayalakshmi does manage to lift her work above the water with a dramatic curve that comes as the first half ends. The idyllic marriage flounders when Abhi is told that he is a test-tube baby having grown in Meena's womb, and despite a clear law which states that marriage between two such children (Anu is Meena's natural born) is not forbidden by law or ethics, the couple begin to drift apart, the man steeped in hollow beliefs growing frighteningly rigid. Anu does not care and understands that her union with Abhi is morally and scientifically legitimate in a story which has been inspired by a true incident in the U.S.
If at all Abhiyum and Anuvum manages to stay afloat, the credit must go to Suhasini and Prabhu, who as Abhi's neighbours in his residential complex are superb. They understand the young couple's dilemma and try to knock some sense into them without making it apparent that they are in the know of things. It is interesting to watch Suhasini as she plays “mother” to Abhi in the beginning, and Anu later. One can clearly discern disarming depth in her performance.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic who may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)